Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 7 “I Can Handle It” (B+)

What we’re seeing now is our two protagonists slowly coming apart as they find themselves unprepared for the latest developments in Ted’s case. Jen went in with Nick expressing a strong front, bold as ever in her desire to see his file, and its contents evidently shook her much more than she thought they would. That led to a direct and problematic explosion in front of clients which hindered the sale that she and Christopher would otherwise have made. Though it seemed that the woman she cursed out was more interested in bettering her mental health than holding her accountable for what she said, it was Christopher who took it hardest. Citing examples of her behavior long before Ted died indicates that this is, in a way, a part of Jen’s personality – lashing out at those she finds intolerable regardless of what the consequences may be. Him breaking up with her is going to be the most severe blow since it’s her one major distraction from the absence of her husband in her life. I almost though that she and Nick were going to hook up when he stopped by to see her, but the duplicity is apparently being left to Judy. Steve lured her in with his eyes-closed trick, and then had to ruin the whole experience by confessing that he of course stole a rock, which Judy will surely associate as the cause of their current misery. Judy reacted aggressively to the news of the car make and model being identified, barely containing the vomit she unleashed as Jen was exiting the room, and not saying right there and then that she used to have a 1966 Mustang is going to make that inevitable discovery much, much worse for her.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 9 “Dude, Where’s My Country” (B+)

If there’s one disappointing thing about this show, it’s that worthwhile and fascinating plotlines from one episode are rarely carried over into the next because there’s something else just as gripping to be showcased. Ramy certainly had very different ideas of what his trip to Egypt would look like than his friends and family, evidenced immediately by the number of suitcases he had to bring with him full of iPads to sell and specially-labeled gifts for everyone he would be seeing. His cousin was all about talking to him in English and taking him to Chili’s when he just wanted to experience the glory of Egypt and go to a mosque. His enthusiasm about trying his aunt’s cooking didn’t last long when she brought out the stuffed pigeon, and it was entertaining to hear him try to debate his family members who expressed nothing but praise for Trump and thought that his immigration policies were actually helping Muslims. His uncle’s quick attachment to the iPad that wasn’t for him made Ramy look like the bad guy when he had to take it back and sell it, and Ramy wasn’t too happy with the behavior he was seeing from his Muslim relatives. It turns out that there’s nothing worse in Egypt than drinking the water, though I suppose accidentally sleeping with his cousin would probably have been more lamentable. Hearing the call to prayer as he finished throwing was telling that visiting his homeland may have been an ideal adventure, but he’s likely better suited for life at home in America.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pilot Review: Too Old to Die Young

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 9 “Four Short Fairy Tales” (C+)

Sometimes this show is a lot more simplistic than it needs to be, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all. Jen’s segment was the best example, featuring truly idiotic colleagues who wanted to work hard to impress their hapless boss by childishly taking credit for Jen’s work. Sarah Baker, a memorable performer from “Louie” and “The Kominsky Method,” was particularly wasted, while Andy Buckley from “The Office” was cast in exactly the role I would have expected, unable to remember the baby’s name literally seconds after Jen said it. It was moderately entertaining to see Jen try so hard to make people like her, but otherwise I was not amused. On the note of unfortunate casting, I’ve never understood why Martin Starr, who has been so much funnier on the likes of “Silicon Valley” and “Party Down,” plays the creepy exterminator, and his scene with Joan about not wanting to retire didn’t make his character’s existence all that much more worthwhile. John failing to realize that he was the one who didn’t teach his sons how to build things felt far from believable, even if he’s not usually one to pick up on cues from anyone around him. Blowing down Greg and Matt’s playhouse with a leafblower was a humorous sight, but that was about it. Tim buying himself a toupee was the best of this week’s bits, both because it shed some light on a past time when the family had to follow the same rules when Heather went through her romper phase and because Tim thought he had the perfect plan only to realize that his photo showed a very different side of him.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Abby’s (Series Finale)

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Fish” (B+)

I never expected this show to last much more than one season, and so I’ll take what we got here. It felt fitting to meet Bill’s ex-wife in the final episode and to have everyone at the bar step in to make sure that Bill didn’t go down a road that really wasn’t right for him. Declaring that he was going to do a revenge-bod diet to show her what she was missing turned into an obsession, particularly from Fred, over the wealth of Padres tickets he could be using on a regular basis. Sharon made an immediate impression when she condescendingly – and improperly – corrected Abby’s Spanish, and Rosie’s offer to look at her photos was far more generous than she initially realized. James pointing out that, no matter where they ran, she would visit was very funny, and I enjoyed how the crew tried to bolster Bill with compliments including his great memory when he noticed they were repeating traits. It was a fun opportunity for them all to prepare to do things Abby would never usually allow after Sharon predictably kissed Bill and wanted him back. The best part of the episode, and what I’ll remember most about Nelson Franklin’s standout performance, was his delivery of “It was lovely seeing you, Sharon, goodbye,” in a way that actually did sting and feel biting. I hope to see many of these actors, particularly Franklin and Natalie Morales, on other shows and in other projects soon. This has been a decent and entertaining ride.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Nelson Franklin as Bill

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 7 “Filleted to Rest” (B)

There’s a lot going on right now on this show, and it’s a bit hard to follow all of it. The pacing isn’t always consistent, with the comedic subplots about the zombie brains and the more serious murders portrayed, but the balance felt a bit off in this hour. All told, however, things are still very interesting, and we saw some major developments that are pretty monumental. There was no shortage of suspects for the murder of the terrible chef, and I like that Clive told Liv he’d remember her before she ate the brain and the owner handed her the remoulade so that she could write down the recipe as soon as it came to her. I was surprised to see Liv’s mother because we haven’t heard from her in a long time, and the conversation about who Liv’s father was felt so random because it’s never come up in any way prior to this. That did make the episode’s final scene a total shock, since the big bad guy who’s teeing up against Major on the side of the vindictive zombies is none other than Martin Roberts, the man who is apparently Liv’s father. I wonder if he knew that Renegade was his daughter, and that really does change things in a huge way. Justin’s betrayal was also unexpected, and Major is turning into someone he doesn’t want to be as he deals with problematic elements waging war against his doctrine of peace. Michelle telling Clive that he’s probably not the father but she wishes he was felt somewhat aimless and distracting, while it remains to be seen what the introduction of Charlie’s sister will mean for Ravi and the show in general. On the guest star front, I enjoyed seeing, if only for a brief scene, Jason Gray-Stanford from “Monk” as the head waiter at the restaurant who took his work very seriously.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 12 “Chapter Ninety-Three” (B+)

This episode covered a lot of themes, and it was rare to see Jane shown in an imperfect light at the start of the hour. I guess we’ve never heard her sing before, and her memories of being in the musical were enough to compel her to get Mateo excited about in a way that wasn’t necessarily expected. It was sad to see him get kicked out of the musical because of his disruptive behavior and to have to watch it through Rafael’s eyes. Xiomara did a great job of getting him ready, but the crying baby was enough to set him off and ruin the experience. While it’s tough to endure, it is a testament to the strength of Jane and Rafael’s coparenting, which is not going to be the only thing they’re sharing anymore. It was strange to see Sophia Bush of “One Tree Hill” and “Chicago PD” fame introduced as Rafael’s new girlfriend only to have Jane convince her of Rafael’s feelings before he finally came around to what we’ve all been hoping for since he said he needed space: he’s in love with Jane! It’s possible there won’t be any distractions to keep them apart, as evidenced by the celebratory song and dance number at the end of the episode, which was fun. The most worrisome development was Krishna’s return to Petra’s employ, hardly the stable support system she needs but instead plotting to get the revenge she’s desperately wanted with another imprisoned enemy that wants to see her fall: Milos.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 4 “God Bless the Child” (B+)

I wasn’t sure about this episode in the middle of it because it seemed to be proceeding along a bit slowly with June meddling in the lives of her former commander and his wife, but, by its end, I appreciated its ability to demonstrate the subtle changes taking place within and among all the characters. Flashing back to a time where June was able to positively celebrate an event in the life of a (her) child and contrasting it with this event they were all forced to attend to celebrate the miracle of birth via the handmaids was very effective, especially in how it demonstrated how much June has transformed. Explaining to Fred why Serena wasn’t happy after he sent the handmaids to the buffet showed how honest she’s now willing to be, and she’s reached a whole new level with Serena, one which she’s working to her advantage and which netted her precious information about the daughter she still needs to rescue. She was perfectly fine to identify her husband when she saw the video, and I’m curious to see what happens with that since maybe Gilead will try to head to Canada to get the child back, which would be extremely interesting. Janine thanking Lydia and telling her she was happy she recovered elicited a surprisingly self-aware reaction from the typically tyrannical taskmaster, who later demonstrated her distaste for people speaking out of turn by delivering a brutal beating after Janine tried to return to her old house. Emily’s reunion with her family was far from smooth, but analyzing the difficulty of acclimating back to normalcy has always been one of this show’s strongest assets.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Finale)

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 10 “Who We Are...and Who We Aren't” (B-)

This has been a frustrating season, and this ending did little to make it all seem worthwhile. It feels like there’s always another ceremony that Jack, Emma, and Izzy need to conduct and which they stupidly do in front of other people so that one of them can air serious concerns that should definitely have been voiced in private. The issues that have been presenting themselves are nothing new, and the notion that Izzy isn’t ready to commit to a life in the suburbs has been a problem for such a long time. After a relatively grown-up and seemingly positive goodbye with Nathan, he had to go and show up at the house under the guise of getting her to come with him for professional reasons. She lashed out at him but still tanked the signing, which is going to be hard for them to get over in season five. At least everyone else seems to be in a good place, with Jack finally bonding in the way that he can with his brother and his mother, and Nina and Shaun are doing as well as can be expected given their sleep issues and handcuff mishaps. We even got to see everyone in the same room as the camera panned around and Gabriel got himself a kiss from Sasha, a plotline that hasn’t really been featured much in a while. Dave’s visit home wasn’t exactly perfect, but he and Carmen will be fine. I’m not sure that’s the same with this thruple, and I’m hoping there will be a bit more energy and creativity when this show returns for its fifth and final season.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Greg Poehler as Jack

Round Two: Perpetual Grace, LTD

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 2 “Orphan Comb Death Fight” (B+)

This show really surprised me with its involving and creative pilot, and I was equally into its second installment. While both James and I might have expected some clarity from the real Paul about his past, or likelier that he would end up being impossible to reach at just the moment that Paul needed some help. Instead, James got to talk to Terry O’Quinn’s Walker, Texas Ranger who didn’t care that he was in New Mexico and who had never heard of Chuck Norris. This show likes to present odd circumstances and just let them sit before characters point out their absurdity, with more unreasonable suggestions like James finding a rattlesnake so that an emergency room would cut off his ankle bracelet just being made bluntly, moments after Hector said that he got his girlfriend an ankle bracelet too. I don’t know what to make of the Lenscrafters guy other than that Byron is evidently just as much of a con man as both Paul and James, and James continues to have an unusual rapport with the kid who now finds that all sounds and all light really hurt his head. The relationship that really wowed me in this episode was the one being built between Hector and Byron. Starting with Byron’s narration demonstrates that he has a plan and that he knows exactly what he’s doing, and the situation appears to have ended in exactly the way he desired. Telling Hector that he needed to exercise when he was given time to do so was just the start of his brutal crushing of Hector’s spirit, and guessing the ending of his novel right away led only to harsher wordplay evisceration of everything about Hector’s character. I don’t think they’re going to make it to the supermax facility.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies (Season Premiere)

Big Little Lies: Season 2, Episode 1 “What Have They Done?” (B)

I didn’t like the first season of this show nearly as much as most people did, and I realize I’m in the minority. As it expands upon what was written in the source material, I’m still watching, and even if I remain less than wowed, it continues to be watchable. I do like the interview format has been done away with, and instead we’re treated regularly to furious flashbacks featuring Perry that turn out to be Celeste’s dreams. I had read about the casting of Meryl Streep in this project, which was sure to be in a meaty role that would earn her countless accolades. She’s definitely well-cast as Mary Louise, the mother of the deceased, who makes a big impression with few curt but smartly-chosen words. Screaming in front of her children and then chewing Celeste out for not expressing her grief was just one of the intense moments in which she was featured, followed by her walking in on Celeste waking up from a violent nightmare and asking who she was planning to kill. Her interactions with Madeline were even more memorable, at first insulting her height and then calling her a wanter, apologizing to her later by explaining that she reminded her so much of a former college friend she truly hated. Bonnie spiraling following the events of the finale isn’t good for anyone, and Nathan is getting caught in a lot of the crossfire, with Bonnie, with Madeline’s college-averse aims, and by feuding with Ed when he didn’t want to get involved with talking to Bonnie. Jane being referred to as one of the “Monterey Five” suggests their worries are long from over, and that video footage of Madeline spinning her story being rewound over and over is bad news too. It was strange to hear “Mystery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name” playing on Jane’s headphones as she was dancing on the beach, though it does have a haunting rhythm that worked for that scene.

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Finale)

Billions: Season 4, Episode 12 “Extreme Sandbox” (B-)

This episode certainly changed things, though I think I’d feel a lot better about sticking around for season five if I knew that it was the final iteration of this show. So many shows I still find to be terrific have had their runs cut short, yet this one seems to be enjoying endless episodes and arcs, most of which are beyond irritating at this point. Bryan’s curiosity about who the idiot was led to a surprising revelation that probably shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, which is that Chuck was working as hard as possible to set his would-be successor up for a fall this whole time. The problem with that plotline in particular and this show in general is that it’s almost arbitrary who Chuck and Axe use as allies, with Kate turning out to have sided with him to bug his jacket so that Jock too would be implicated for his crossing of the line in commissioning Bryan to scorch earth for him. Perhaps the biggest twist was that, frustrated with being told time and time again that he wasn’t doing enough for him, Chuck opted to turn Taylor into an asset, reading them into Axe’s master plan so that they could help him get Axe once and for all. After he had Rebecca help Wendy so that she would be away while he seized power and pushed her out, Axe has proven that he cares about only one person. I thought this hour was going to end with Axe and Wendy sleeping together, but I guess their relationship can be more about closeness than physical contact. Though it’s nothing like what it used to be when it first started, this show remains moderately watchable, and I expect to continue to tune in when season five begins.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Nina Arianda as Rebecca

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Round Two: When They See Us

When They See Us: Season 1, Episode 2 “Part Two” (B+)

It’s very difficult to watch this show and see the looks of relief and even happiness on the faces of the defendants and their parents when it seems that the trial is going their way. Felicity Huffman’s Linda Fairstein wasn’t seen nearly as much in this episode as the initially dubious Elizabeth Lederer, played by Vera Farmiga, took center stage to go after the boys hard, grouping them in a way that would allow the playing of the most damning testimony to incriminate each of the others. Not submitting the tested sock into evidence was a dirty move than Joshua Jackson’s Mickey Joseph immediately pointed out and tried to use to exonerate not only his client but the others, but it was to no avail. What’s becoming most apparent in this case is that those on trial were selected because they fit a certain stereotype, and the brutal nature of the crimes are continually emphasized in a way that only underlines how heinous they were, not that the kids on trial were the perpetrators. That final scene with the guilty verdicts coming down to crush the futures of each of the defendants was devastating, and appropriately so. Including footage of Trump going on television and taking out full-page ads in four newspapers calling for the boys’ execution is far from a subtle choice, one that’s clearly meant to show that not much about this country has changed in the thirty or so years since these events if a man who wanted to kill these young accused suspects is now running it.

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 6 “Oh My God” (B+)

After so much character development with Jen and Judy, it’s good to see a spotlight on two less featured players just as impacted by Ted’s death. Charlie getting caught dealing drugs at school wasn’t a great wake-up call for Jen, who responded hilariously by chewing him out in front of the representative from the school, who seemed far less bothered by it than Jen was. Henry’s outburst during the off-key recital was considerably less expected, and the fact that he didn’t realize he had done anything wrong indicated that Jen really did need to step in to make sure he was headed in the right direction. I love that Christopher was so excited about having him join his church choir, a notion that Jen hated, and that he seemed to be just as into it. Nick’s involvement in the case – and Judy’s life – is playing out as I think she might have hoped, which is that he’s able to unearth new information that hadn’t previously been revealed, which isn’t entirely good for Judy. Showing up at the house in uniform to scare Charlie worked, but he shut down when he found the gun in the backpack. He’s always flashing back to the death of his partner, while Judy can’t stop talking about Ted’s death. Prompting the young eyewitness to bring the damning evidence she still had to the house was hardly Judy’s intention, and she just has to hope that Steve wasn’t stupid enough to dispose of the car in a way that might get it tracked back to them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 8 “Saving Mikaela” (B+)

After two episodes focused on other members of Ramy’s family, we’re back to the title protagonist here. Ramy getting a fidget spinner as a gift for his girlfriend’s son did not come across as the sweet, thoughtful gesture he meant it to, and he got some more judgment from his friend who told his son to refer to Ramy as a homewrecker. Steve was right to call Ramy out on only coming over when he’s feeling guilty, but Ramy was immediately up for driving him to the date he set up. He didn’t realize, however, what the nature of the visit would be, and it started poorly when the Muslim clerk judged him for buying alcohol and condoms. Steve asking his “aide” Ramy to just let him have this one despite the clear problematic age difference was the first of several moments that pushed Ramy past his comfort zone, but he really wants to be a people pleaser, even if it means compromising his own values. Kicking down the door while shouting “Allah Hu-Akbar” was an interesting experience, and even Steve was ready to thank him for taking care of the situation, both saving Mikaela and then having his friend help make sure that they didn’t get in trouble for their association with the underage girls. Ramy clarifying that his beard was grown in college was a humorous moment, but sadly one of the last before the melancholy ending. Having his father question his decision to come to America only for his son to have an affair with a married woman was pretty soul-crushing, and it’s going to be hard for Ramy to get past that.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 8 “X Box Glimpse Spotlight” (C)

This was far from my favorite episode of this show, with none of the vignettes standing out as particularly pleasant or entertaining. The first was probably the strongest of a weak set, with Heather managing to, for once, suppress her curiosity and need to know about her children’s lives when Sam sent her the emergency text. Not being able to ask any questions presented an enormous problem, and of course her first solution would be to try to scan Sam’s face while she was asleep to unlock her phone. Sam piling on the craziness of the situation didn’t help, but even Tyler was well aware of the “X” text rules. Tim’s bathroom circus fiasco was pretty intolerable, and apparently Colleen is very into the performers and more than happy to flirt when her brother-in-law is about to explode. John walking in on Jen while she wasn’t entirely clothed was a highly staged scenario, and the way that he tried to handle it by lying about her having seen his penis was just odd. Greg angrily trying to block anyone from following Jen when she invited anyone who hadn’t yet seen the show to come take a look was the funniest moment of that segment. Greg and Matt have always been competitive as siblings, and having Lucas be an incredible piano player made it seem like Matt was going to have a tremendous advantage in the parent department. Lark having the opportunity to teach him how to ride a bike was a sweet notion, even if it was presented in a very braggart manner by a gleeful Greg.

Monday, June 10, 2019

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 6 “The Scratchmaker” (B)

I’m not sure exactly what this episode was supposed to be since it involved a few tropes that didn’t quite last the duration of the hour. Blaine narrating was an interesting and different tact, one that felt a lot more rushed and eager to skip over any boring exposition. Not a lot of time passed between him being behind bars complaining about how “Snakes on a Plane” really didn’t work when it contained lines like “monkey-finger” to being back at his club, murdering his troublesome underlings and hatching his next big scheme. After Stacey’s return and his initially successful partnership with Don-E, it was Major who deserves the most credit for his clever plan to work with a known shipper to produce EuFreightEze brain tubes, a very important solution to his very big problem. Al being revealed as Stacey’s niece makes some sense, though it seems she’s more than capable of handling herself as evidenced by her cool response to Blaine going full-zombie. Major’s problems aren’t fully gone yet, with Dolly proving to be a serious threat that won’t go away, intent on stirring up anti-zombie sentiment even if chaos hasn’t erupted just yet. Liv being on matchmaker brain was entertaining, and I liked that Don-E was so eager for her to have a vision of his match since he was nearly able to attain some promised happiness before the matchmaker’s untimely demise. I don’t know that Clive being made acting lieutenant will change much, and I’m all for seeing more of Ken Marino’s paper-eating lawyer.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 11 “Chapter Ninety-Two” (B-)

I feel as if things are stalling a bit at the moment and we’re headed into over-the-top territory with still almost half of the final season’s episodes left to air. Jorge’s role on the show has been relatively tolerable thus far, but to suddenly have him transform into the “man of the house” who has all these unreasonable demands for Jane when he won’t even listen to the few things she requests of him so that Mateo isn’t picking up on his bad behavior didn’t feel terribly genuine or believable. Alba also got fed up with Jane for judging her more dated worldview, sparking a conflict we don’t usually see between the two of them that led to Jane’s much-delayed decision to finally move out. River kissing Rogelio after hearing Xiomara’s good news was a strange and totally illogical turn, and for her to then covertly celebrate having tricked Xiomara, who was quite forceful in her water tackling of River on set, into thinking she just got too into the acting was also odd. This show does need to occasionally stay true to its roots as a telenovela, and therefore I guess it’s about time that there’s an excessive twist which puts some of our characters in serious jeopardy in a way that’s not related to the currently dormant Rose plotline. Petra getting over JR is taking a long time and is becoming increasingly miserable, but at least she finally reached out to another jilted ex so that she wouldn’t continually have to fire incompetent temps.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 3 “Useful” (B+)

While I do tend to be fond of episodes that feature all of our characters, it’s hard to find one like that, and therefore we’ll have to wait to check in with all the refugees over in Canada. This hour did provide an enlightening reintroduction to the Waterfords, whose personal problems have apparently become quite well-known within Gilead. It was strange to see Serena out by the water as she was visiting her mother, who seems to enjoy a certain level of independence but definitely buys into the ideology of Gilead. Actress Laila Robbins looked familiar to me, likely because of her role in season four of “Homeland.” Serena being prayed for was one thing, but for her anguish to inspire other women to be all about their husbands felt particularly harsh. I’m just waiting for her to turn and start working with the resistance, something June has embraced wholeheartedly as her purpose now. She doesn’t mince words anymore, asking both Serena and Nick for their direct help. The goodbye with new commander and soldier Nick was mostly off-screen, and I’ll be curious to see if we get to see him again at any point. Fred seemed less than happy to see June, though she did point out that he kept her alive when he could easily have not protected her. Joseph was eager too humiliate June in front of the other commanders by referencing her past as a book editor and having her bring him a book, and I think her spunk and resilience will ultimately benefit her since, at the very least, he won’t be bored.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 2 “Mary and Martha” (B+)

This episode wasn’t quite as intense or monumental as the first hour of the season, but it still does a solid job of following the plot, with the only main characters not featured being the Waterfords, who I really do look forward to checking in with in future episodes. Joseph is an intriguing character, one who speaks in a manner that doesn’t suit the archaic nature and formality of Gilead but also doesn’t imply a particular kindness. He really is an architect, someone who sees the metrics and logistics of how to accomplish something but definitely doesn’t buy into the ideology. Aunt Lydia, who managed to survive Emily’s attack, was not kind on her visit to the home, tasing June when she tried to help her up, and she’s evidently going to be gunning for June regardless of Joseph offering her protection. Forcing June to dig a grave for the dead Martha as a punishment for allowing a woman he didn’t know in the house who definitely brought trouble made it clear what this relationship is going to be like, as he’s not going to take unnecessary risks even if he doesn’t believe things should be operating as they are. I’m intrigued by the idea of Chicago being held by the Americans, an apparently still-existent force, and I’d love to see a greater picture of the national map. Emily’s experience in Canada was certainly jolting, with a medical appointment that was actually about her wellbeing and revealed the surprising truth about her high cholesterol. After Luke aired his frustration and Moira chastised him for it, it was endearing to see the powerful ending with Sylvia answering the phone and being overcome with emotion that Emily was on the other end.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale (Season Premiere)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 1 “Night” (B+)

I’m so glad that this show, basically my top program over the past two years, is back. I’ve also decided that I’m going to watch the first three episodes, all of which were released this past Wednesday, back-to-back immediately after reviewing each of them rather than spreading them out over the course of three weeks as I’ve done in the past. This show is just too excellent for me to not want to be caught up. After an intense finale, this premiere followed up in both expected and unexpected ways as its characters faced the repercussions of their actions. Even more fascinating than June’s journey home was how Serena and Nick both made it clear to Fred that they were giving Nichole more time to get away rather than let him go out and search for her. Serena burning the bed was a dramatic and intense process, one that indicates just how disillusioned she’s become with the life she’s living. Thanks to Joseph, June was very easily able to go see her daughter, and her new mother, played by Amy Landecker from “Transparent,” was right to assure her that she was being raised well and that her continued interference would only end up with her being executed in front of her daughter. Joseph taking June in as his new handmaid is the best possible outcome of all this, though I’m not sure what her activities are going to be in her new environment. The asylum scene after Emily swam in the water was powerful, as was her being applauded for her brave journey. We didn’t get to see much of her meeting with Luke and Moira, but I’m so excited for what transformative things might come next.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 9 “I'm Popeye and You're My Beautiful Spinach” (B)

My interest in the narratives here is definitely waning, though I’ll certainly stick around for the final season of the show following next week’s season finale. We haven’t seen too much of Jack’s mother before, at least from what I can remember, and she made quite an impression in the closing moments of the episode that Izzy didn’t know whether or not to take seriously. Telling him about his father’s infidelity dealt a serious blow to the image he had always projected upon him, and it was good that both Izzy and Emma were supportive and that Gabe and his mom showed up to spend time with them after breaking that news. Izzy’s reaction to Emma asking her if Nathan was in love with her was far too strong, and she barged right into what soon won’t be his office to tell him off furiously for running away to help “kids in cages,” as they so eloquently put it, just so that he wouldn’t be around her anymore. I like that Izzy stopping by to see Lala, William, and Marty for their help in planning an epic anniversary party resulted in her learning about her father’s sleepover at Lala’s, which did not please her at all. Shaun showing up with a pair of handcuffs inscribed with “you will always hold the key” was pretty much the best thing he could have done to salvage that relationship, and it appears to have worked. After Carmen confessed to Dave that she was an undercover asshole, he too did the smartest thing possible by showing up in person to demonstrate just how much he cares about her happiness and wellbeing.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Pilot Review: Perpetual Grace, LTD

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 11 “Lamster” (B-)

It didn’t take Chuck Sr. long to find one of the bugs in his apartment, and, unless Chuck once again has some huge plan brewing that he hasn’t yet shared with anyone, he walked right into the trap by speaking freely before they put it together that his place was likely bugged too. Assembling his underlings at the hospital as Ira awaited the birth of his child was awfully maniacal, and now that Chuck Sr. has been apprehended by the FBI and seated face-to-face with Jock, time seems to be up for the Rhoades men. Axe even started to lash out at Chuck for continually failing to deliver on his promise to put Taylor behind bars, and he’s the one ally potentially powerful enough to help Chuck, especially after Kate went and told Jock right away that Chuck had tried to appeal to her loyalty, though it may also be part of his endgame to manipulate her in that way. Bryan going with his safecracker brother, who I knew I recognized as Michael Raymond-James from “True Blood” and “Terriers,” to break into the safe was not a good idea, and the only reason he might get away with it is that Hall doesn’t have a way to prove that he knew someone else accessed the safe. Taylor’s comp move paid off, it seems, while Axe faced insurrection from all of his people, including Wags, which was unexpected. Axe’s biggest issue now is going to be Rebecca, who made the smart choice to make a deal with Taylor, a decision that is sure to make Axe do things he really shouldn’t in the pursuit of his never-ending greed. Wendy’s choice to confess her sins was bold, and at least Wags has her back to make sure that she won’t fall apart with her professional life crumbing around her.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 5 “I’ve Gotta Get Away” (B+)

This show’s two main characters have become strong enough that this entire episode was focused just on them without any of the other regular players. Jen’s attitude at the grief retreat was expectedly sour, indulging far too much in alcohol and treating those around her in typically crash fashion. Judy is far more open to the idea of a different experience, and the two of them did a decent job of balancing each other out. I was excited to immediately recognize Steve Howey from “Shameless” as Jason, the widower that Jen was extremely attracted to, and he turned out not to be quite as dumb as Kev but definitely also wasn’t the right match for Jen, who didn’t want crying or moping but just some disconnected sex. Judy, on the other hand, ended up with a much more intimate night than she had planned for, resulting in her awkward refusal to let Jen in to the room. Jen sitting outside and smoking with Pastor Wayne was a nice moment, especially because we got to see a less polished side of the group leader and also a chance for him to respond to Jen rudely bashing him earlier in the episode. It’s hard to know why Judy would introduce Jen to the cop she just slept with since he’s likely to get wind of her involvement. I guess him being a prostitute, which is what it initially seemed, wouldn’t have been all that much worse, though her secret is most vulnerable now.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 7 “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (A-)

Since this show started, Hiam Abbass, the only cast member I knew beforehand, has definitely been underused. After the previous episode focused entirely on Ramy’s sister and her experience in the world, it was so worthwhile to see life in New Jersey through the eyes of Ramy’s mother. Opening with her watching the yoga class and having her suggestion of joining the fitness studio promptly shut down by her husband demonstrated the boredom and loneliness she felt, especially when her son wouldn’t even come to pick her up because he was in the middle of watching a sports game. Her time in the Lyft proved to be much better than she could ever have imagined, and I like that she was next seen as a driver, trying to imitate the wonder she first felt in the back of the car. Having the doors locked and refusing to make a u-turn after driving right past a passenger were the first missteps, but having a woman get out of the car because she couldn’t stand the smell of her food and didn’t want the baklava dessert she so eagerly offered was a real blow. A friendly, complimentary French passenger who liked hearing her speak French greatly picked up her spirits, though that entrancing distraction came to a swift end when he had her pick him up with his wife in tow. A return home led to surprisingly passionate sex with her husband, though that too was over almost before it began when his favorite scene came on. This show is truly committed to featuring all of its characters, and this episode was a true highlight.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Pilot Review: When They See Us

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: Swamp Thing

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Pilot Review: Good Omens

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 7 “Lost Math Art Glam” (B-)

The first segment of this episode felt very set up as so many of them seem to, with Greg mindlessly leaving his daughter in the elevator in a way that almost felt deliberate. The ensuing panic that he expressed, in addition to his near-catching of some serious disease thanks to an uncovered cough, was indeed dramatic, and he would have been totally great had Heather not showed up at the worst possible moment to express her relief that Lark had been found. It was sweet to see how Lark reacted upon meeting her younger sister, and I assume more comedic scenarios will emerge for the new siblings soon. Sophia’s impossible math problem was quite the stumper, and I like that Colleen got so offended that no one wanted to utilize her knowledge until she immediately admitted that she had no clue how to tackle it either. Lucas getting to bond with John was nice, even if it didn’t happen in the way that Matt wanted it to and got him pretty worried along the way. Colleen, still the newest addition to the family, continues to be eager to change things the rest of them have long since given up on, and after her horrific makeup attempt, it seems like she got everyone on board for a surprise photo that hilariously ended this episode with her shocked yet still posing in the best way possible for the camera. That closing moment was the highlight of this episode aside from Tyler berating his uncle and grandfather for not supporting him while he was in a band.

Monday, June 3, 2019

What I’m Watching: Abby’s (Penultimate Episode)

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 9 “Rosie’s Band” (B-)

This wasn’t a fantastic second-to-last outing, with Rosie’s complete lack of awareness of just how terrible her band was less than believable. The story of how she was Abby’s Zellweger who followed her when she quit the rival bar was far more compelling, and I like that she accosted Abby for making a reference her generation wouldn’t get when they’re both the same age. Trying to barter with the people at Nemo’s so that they’d give her a weekly gig that would both be a bigger platform and a way for them not to have to listen to her was relatively predictable, and it didn’t exactly go anywhere unexpected. Clark, the friendly man who happened into the bar just as the police were searching for a suspect, was played by Rob Huebel, better known as Len on “Transparent.” Here, he was affable and almost a direct clone of Fred, and it was only when James let his guard down to tell him who he had thought he was that he confirmed he was indeed on the run as the police showed up. Bill planning a fake wedding so that the police wouldn’t realize that they were walking into an illegal bar was considerably over-the-top, but I like just how much he went into it because he got to plan the wedding he wished he had. It will be hard to see Nelson Franklin in another project without thinking of just how much he does look like the inflatable man outside the car dealerships. I also like James’ clarification that the apps he wants to design are appetizers.

What I’m Watching: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 8 “Backup” (B)

It’s hardly a surprise that, despite hanging on a few extra weeks to see how some of the remaining episodes would perform, NBC opted not to renew this show, axing it along with “The Village” and “The Enemy Within.” This was never a fantastic comedy, but I’ve enjoyed it, and now there’s just one more episode that aired with this one, which I’ll review separately, and what will be the series finale airing in two weeks. I’ll take what I can get, and maybe Natalie Morales will be able to get another now after her appearances in two other one-season shows I liked, “Powerless” and “The Grinder.” This episode was fun because it pitted Abby against Bill in a more equal way than usual, due both to Bill’s physical stature and his legal threats. Though the bar is a rather participatory experience, Abby doesn’t like to feel like she can’t do something, and therefore she went to extreme lengths to show how capable she was even with two burnt hands, which was a relatively entertaining visual. It’s nice to see that relationship taken mildly seriously for once. James breaking Beth’s mug by accident and then trying to pin it on Dan was fun, mainly because James is such a terrible bouncer who can never stand up to anyone. Fortunately, it all seemed to work out, and Bill’s 3-D printer that no one wants to hear about helped to recreate the mug whose absence might well have caused Beth to stop drinking altogether.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 5 “Death Moves Pretty Fast” (B+)

This show doesn’t always feature such overt references to famous pop culture, but I guess it makes sense that there would be a Ferris Bueller-type in zombie-infested Seattle who would continue to live life like a party, with no regard to the seriousness of the problems around him. His “old” neighbor Blaine coming over and threatening his life led to a very overeager bit of grandstanding from the smuggler to Liv and Ravi in front of Al that backfired in a very big way. Al was set on exposing Blaine from the start, and it was evident from the aggressive nature of the questions that she asked Peyton that all she wanted was to take him down. He, on the other hand, was legitimately disappointed when she didn’t show up for the romantic meal he prepared, though he appeared to move on to his next big scheme just moments after finding out the devastating news of his ruined reputation. I’m not sure if she’ll continue to appear as a character, but Al is quite bold, sampling a piece of the brain Liv was eating as soon as she wandered into the morgue. Liv hatching schemes to identify Harris’ killer was entertaining, as was Clive face-timing in to questioning while high on painkillers. On a much more serious note, Enzo tried to take advantage when he realized that Major was on the Alzheimer’s brains, and his punishment revealed to Major much bigger problems that are going to be extraordinarily bad for human-zombie relations.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Twilight Zone (Season Finale)

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 10 “Blurryman” (B)

It seems very fitting that this show should close out its first season with an extremely self-referential hour that involves the elements it’s used to frame other installments within its own storyline. I recognized Seth Rogen by his voice in the opening moments as the writer, though his presence and that of his costar Betty Gabriel, from “Get Out” and “Counterpart,” diminished considerably after that. Jordan’s narration being interrupted and rewritten was a surprise, with the focus shifting to the one recognizable performer not playing themselves: Zazie Beetz from “Atlanta” as Sophie. Ending up as the subject of the narration after Jordan’s existential discussion of what the Twilight Zone rather is and whether the narrator is needed to explain it was an interesting way of flipping our perception. I wasn’t as fond of where things went from there as the Blurryman turned out to be in the back of the frame in every episode, resulting in a relatively standard stalker-horror narrative from then on. Sophie angrily shouting at Jordan because she though that he was doing it to demonstrate that the horror is real as he’s done in the movies he’s directed was a bit more interesting, and I appreciated her opportunity to engage with the narration to truly understand what she was experiencing. I think ardent fans of the original were probably pleased with this trip back in time to its world, which for me felt appropriately weird if not entirely satisfying. I liked the first three episodes of this show a lot, and I’m hopeful that season two will offer more hours like those.

Season grade: B
Best Episode: The Comedian

Pilot Review: The InBetween

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.